Biological treatment found for metritis

Chitosan microparticles show potential for decreasing multiple pathogenic bacteria that cause uterine infections in dairy cattle.

University of Florida researchers are now far more certain that a new biological treatment could prevent dairy cattle from getting uterine diseases, which might improve food safety for people.

Kwang Cheol “KC” Jeong, an assistant professor in the animal sciences department of the university's Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences, along with Klibs Galvao, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and their team conducted experiments in the lab the first time, and this time, they went into the field.

Jeong, who’s also affiliated with University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, studied uterine illnesses because they can make cows infertile, may lower milk production and are often linked to bacteria.

For a newly published study, Jeong and Galvao conducted their research at Alliance Dairy, a commercial farm in Gilchrist County, Fla., where they infused chitosan microparticles — an antimicrobial material made of dissolved shrimp shells — into diseased cow uteri. They found that chitosan decreased multiple pathogenic bacteria, including Fusoscobacteria necrophorum, in the uterus and, therefore, cured metritis, an inflammation in the uterus.

Jeong’s latest study investigates further some conclusions he reached in a study he published in 2014.

“We did follow-up experiments in animals to cure the disease, which is very important,” Jeong said. “It’s a critical advance because most lab data are not repeated in real-world situations. However, our work showed that chitosan microparticles can be translated into clinical treatment for animals and even for humans.”

When bought in stores, chitosan can be used to treat many ailments, from obesity to anemia. On its own, chitosan works only at acidic pH levels, Jeong said. For cattle, Jeong’s team developed chitosan microparticles, which work in acidic and neutral pH, because cattle uteri have a neutral pH.

The latest study’s findings suggest that chitosan microparticles kill bacteria in the uteri, Jeong said, adding that it may someday be possible for chitosan microparticles to be used to help people who have become ill from consuming Escherichia coli-contaminated food, but more research is needed.

Once bacteria become resistant, whether on farms, hospitals or in the environment, they can infect people via water, food or contact with contaminated feces, Jeong noted.

Further, some antibiotics used to treat humans and animals kill both good and bad bacteria. Scientists can use the University of Florida study’s findings to begin to develop better drugs that target bad pathogens while leaving beneficial bacteria alone, Jeong said.

The new study was published in the journal Biomaterials.

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